Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Karnataka to release 2,000 cusecs of Cauvery water a day to Tamil Nadu till further orders.
At the same time, the apex court also asked both the states to maintain peace and harmony.
Saying that a sense of citizenry must prevail in two states, SC said, 'morality of respect' should exist among their people.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, which commenced the crucial hearing on various issues arising out of the dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over sharing of Cauvery waters, said it first intended to adjudicate the issue of maintainability of appeals filed by both the states and Kerala against the tribunal's 2013 award.
"We intend to first adjudicate issue of maintainability of appeals filed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. At this juncture, the interim order dated October 4 directing Karnataka to release 2000 cusecs of water per day to Tamil Nadu will continue till further orders," the bench also comprising Justices Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar said.
The court also noted the submission of Karnataka that it has complied with the earlier order of releasing 2000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu.
Both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu said they were in dire need of water, which was even supported by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
During the hearing, Rohatgi submitted that the apex court-appointed Supervisory Committee, formed to inspect Cauvery basin to assess the ground realities in the region, has submitted its report.
The bench said it would first go into the issue of maintainability of appeals filed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry against the award of tribunal and then hear the arguments on the report filed by the committee.
The Attorney General said the appeals filed by the states were not maintainable as per article 131 and 262 of the Constitution and the provisions of Inter-state River Water Disputes Act, 1956.
He said as per the constitutional provisions, a decree passed by a tribunal will be like a decree of Supreme Court which cannot hear the appeals against its own order.
Senior advocate and noted jurist Fali S Nariman, appearing for Karnataka, said the appeals are maintainable as Supreme Court can only adjudicate the disputes between two states.
The SC had on October 4 directed Karnataka to release 2,000 cusecs Cauvery water every day to Tamil Nadu from October 7 to 18 and deferred its earlier order asking the Centre to set up Cauvery Water Management Board (CWMB) till it finally decided on appeals relating to the age-old water dispute.
The apex court had agreed to the suggestion that a Supervisory Committee, comprising officials and technical experts from the Centre, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry, be set up to inspect Cauvery basin for assessing ground realities.
On September 30, SC had directed Karnataka to discharge 6,000 cusecs water from October 1-6, warning it that no one would know when the "wrath of the law" would fall on it.
Yesterday, a high-level panel had suggested doing away with "outdated and unscientific water application techniques" to resolve the wrangle, saying both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were facing water shortage, creating unemployment and financial hardship for the people.
The apex court-appointed Supervisory Committee, formed to inspect Cauvery basin to assess the ground realities in the region, had said that the neighbouring riparian states needed to appreciate interest of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to protect their established irrigation and Karnataka's aspirations for development and educate their people accordingly.
The panel in its 40-page report had noted that farmers in both states were in severe distress and adequate crop compensation must be provided to them.
"There has been large number of suicides reported in Karnataka's Mandya district," the report had said in its assessment of the social aspects of the situation in the Cauvery basin, as per PTI.
However, the technical assessment of the ground reality had stated that "the water application techniques are outdated and unscientific and the value of water is not realised. The water applied to the field is on the concept of flooding from one field to another adjacent field and as such the water consumption is on the higher side and during period of distress, this becomes very significant depending upon the soil condition."
"The infrastructure to deliver water to the farmers is century old and has very low conveyance efficiency. This needs to be modernised for optimal use of scarce water. The conveyance efficiency can be further improved by piped distribution network and application efficiency by micro irrigation and precision irrigation. In addition, on-farm development works may be provided to ensure equitable distribution of water to individual farmer's field," the report had said.
(With PTI inputs)